Yesterday, after two full school years of pre-school minus one week, I finally got the phone call I'd been dreading since the first day: my son had had an allergic reaction immediately after eating his snack. Until now, every aspect of his schooling had far exceeded my expectations. His teacher has taken him from learning his alphabet to beginning to read short words. His therapists are top notch, much better than I had thought I'd find in the public school system. The Kid has thrived in this environment, and both his teacher and the two aides she's had have been extremely vigilant in protecting him from food allergens.
On the phone, his teacher said that The Kid had broken out in hives on his face and neck. She described them as "really horrible" with white spots in the center like blisters. They had given him Benadryl and the hives were starting to fade. At that point, they weren't sure if he had eaten something or if it was a contact allergy, since he was scratching and rubbing his neck when they noticed the reaction.
By the time I reached the school, the hives were much more faded, but still visible, and my little boy was pretty drunk on the Benadryl. The teacher and aide had searched the room and rechecked the snack and discovered that the pretzels he had eaten were "manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts." They had read the label, but had stopped after reading the major allergen labeling about wheat and soy ingredients. (I have mixed feelings about the labeling requirements for the eight major allergens, but I'll save that for a different post.) I took him home, fed him lunch, and watched him like a hawk for the next four hours in case of a secondary reaction.
I didn't realize how much the day had stressed me until my husband came home and I promptly took a nap/fell into a coma. After dinner last night when the Benadryl had worn off, The Kid and I talked about the reaction. This is the first one he's had in about a year and a half, so his language skills have advanced enough for me to get more of his perspective. He described the hives as "buggy bites," which surprised me. (We usually say either bugs or insects, so I'm not sure where he got the phrase.) He also said that they hurt, rather than itched. Then we talked about what he has to do if it happens again.
I got out the Epi-Pen trainer and we practiced using it and I explained how it works. In case of a reaction, his job is to find a grown up and ask for help as fast as he can. If the grown up doesn't understand or listen, he is to point to his medic alert bracelet and just ask for help and not to take no for an answer. (The Kid's language skills are excellent, but he has articulation problems that sometimes make his speech difficult to understand.) I am terrified that a teacher might just tell him to sit down and be quiet when his life is literally on the line.
After talking with his allergist's office, I've decided to make some changes in his medical instructions for next year. We've controlled all of his reactions with Benadryl until now, so I had given the school instructions to use that unless his breathing was affected, in which case they were to give the Epi and call 911. Next year I'm going to have them immediately use the Epi-Pen in case of reaction, rather than the approach we use at home. The location of the hives on the neck and face especially worries me, since I suspect that if The Kid is exposed to even a slightly larger amount of peanut, he could have a reaction that might stop his breathing. (Just typing those words makes me shake.) I'm also only going to allow food that has been brought from home or had the label checked by my husband or me.
I was already worried about beginning Kindergarten. Now I'm terrified. It's been long enough since The Kid had a reaction, that I was starting to relax. Not anymore. I'm just hoping that yesterday's reaction will at least help us prevent another one.